Prior to being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2006, Koch played in his native Nebraska at University of Nebraska, where he earned a degree in business administration. He and his wife, Nikki, live in Westminster with their three sons, Ryan, 15, Braxtyn, 9, and Kamdyn, 7. The couple will welcome a daughter this fall. Along with his thoughts on youth football and fatherhood, Koch says that, yes, everyone in his family has one of No. 4’s signature “Punters are people too” T-shirts.
Maryland Family: How do you balance your family life as a dad with your career as a football player being on the road so much?
Sam Koch: Being able to balance is definitely tough. That’s why it’s great to have my wife. She does an amazing job with the three boys. I try to spend as much time and do as much as I can in the off-season. During training camps, I don’t get home until right before they go to bed, and it makes it a little tough. We don’t always get to play and do things those days, but as soon as I get home during the season we’re always outside. We’re always playing together as a family and just trying to find ways to still have that family time even though they know I’m well dedicated to the season.
Now that they’re getting older, they’re starting to understand it a little more, whereas when they were younger they didn’t really understand why I have to go during the season and then in the off-season I can be home every day. It was a hard adjustment in the beginning, but now it’s definitely gotten a lot easier. It’s a blast having kids, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being able to have the career I have and them being able to experience it, I think, is a great thing.
MF: What are your favorite ways to spend time with your boys?
SK: We typically like to play outside. With my oldest it’s talking politics. He loves politics, he loves reading, anything to do with history. So if we can talk about that he’s having the time of his life. With my middle one, we like being outside playing any kind of sports. And my young one, golfing is typically what he likes. I like to take them all golfing since they all do somewhat enjoy it. A lot of times we’ll go up to Westminster National. It’s a great little course, and they let us bring the kids on. They love to play with the neighbors, so we’ll go down and play some soccer. I played soccer in high school, so I was able to teach them a few things.
MF: Holiday time is at the height of your season. So what are the challenges of being a dad who’s on the road traveling or even playing a game on Thanksgiving or right around Christmastime?
SK: That’s always the hardest. We’ve had one Thanksgiving Day game that was two years ago. It’s kind of tough, but with (Coach) Harbaugh being here, he’s always “family first.” And he always tries to do everything he can to include the families, whether it be to bring them here (to the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills) for the day while we’re at practice or let us get out of practice early. Sometimes kids just don’t understand that we have to travel on Christmas Day. That makes it hard because I’m a huge Christmas guy. I like Christmas, my boys do, and when I have to leave they kind of get sad. But we have a quick turn-around.
MF: What are your favorite family holiday traditions?
SK: As a family now we’ve started some traditions. We have an artificial tree in the house, but we also go out and pick our own tree that the boys can decorate. We sit down together at the table every night, and Thanksgiving is just one of those times. My wife has gotten good at cooking Thanksgiving dinner so that when we come home from practice it’s there. My oldest definitely is always trying to help Mom. The kids want to help, especially when dessert is involved.
MF: When Dad is in the spotlight, there’s bound to be criticism here and there. Have you and your wife talked to your sons about how to react when they hear things about you?
SK: Especially with all the kids in school, nowadays people always have to be talking. They hear plenty of that criticism, maybe from the kid’s dad and then the kid takes it to school the next day. He’ll come home and talk about it. It’s something that’s going to happen in life. There’s always critics out there who always think they know what’s best, what’s right. We always tell them not to even worry about it. Just listen, let it go in one ear and then go out the other. Keep doing the job you’re doing, keep focused.
MF: Does your family have any special traditions for home games?
SK: Friday nights before the Sunday game we always go out to dinner. A lot of times we’ll just leave it up to the kids to pick a place they want to go. And then Saturday, whether we’re traveling to the stadium or to the hotel in downtown Baltimore, it’s always Chic-fil-A that day. It’s just one of those things we’ve had, and the boys know that when it comes Saturday they’re getting Chic-fil-A. I got sick of Popeyes. The rookies have to get chicken, so I got sick of that my first year.
MF: Do your sons play football, or other sports?
SK: My oldest plays football. He’s a freshman at Winters Mill this year. My two youngest, I haven’t started them in football. I want them to wait and see what they really want to play. They want to play, but I just think with the whole pads and things I want to postpone it as long as I can. Other sports that they play — the oldest plays lacrosse, the other two play soccer. They’ll be doing some basketball this year.
MF: With more attention on concussions and safety in recent years, what are your thoughts on youth football, and when is a good time to start?
SK: That has a little bit to do with the reason the two younger ones haven’t played yet. Earlier in my career, I was just excited for my oldest to play, just to see him out there playing. As time went on I would see first- and second-graders out there in helmets. It just seems like there are way too many chances for accidents and things to go wrong that I don’t want to throw my young ones in there.
My oldest was always tall, so it was a little easier for him to get used to the pads and stuff like that, so I thought it was OK. But with the concussion issue and as much studying as they’re doing I feel like that’s a factor before I put them out there in the pads. I think the older they get the more they’ll understand not to lower their head, not to use their head.
MF: Since you moved to Carroll County, what are your favorite things about your community and living in Maryland?
SK: When we first got here, we had to get used to everything. It was definitely a huge change from the Midwest. But moving up to Carroll County kind of brought us closer to home. It’s more spread out up there. There’s a lot more farmers and agriculture around there, which made us feel more at home. The pace of life there is a little different from Owings Mills and Baltimore, whereas in Nebraska — very slow.
There are so many good people up there, especially in our neighborhood. The boys have a lot of kids to play with, and there’s a lot to do. That was a nice thing about coming out here. Everything is so close in relation to where we live. When we were living in Nebraska you had to drive eight to 10 hours to get to a big city. We went up to New York for the first time this year, me and my wife. We’ve taken the kids down to D.C. They always like that, especially the older one because of the museums.
We’ll also try to find time to go to Ocean City to visit the beach. Up until we moved here, that was my wife’s first time ever seeing an ocean. So that was exciting for her. And we also vacation in Disney World. The boys love Disney World.
MF: Having been a Raven since 2006, you’re one of the most senior players on the team. What’s that like?
SK: It’s kind of crazy and surreal. I sat there and thought about that after Ray (Lewis) left, and basically it’s me and Haloti (Ngata) on the team from the 2006 draft class. You have (Terrell) Suggs of course. It’s just crazy to think back to my rookie year when I thought “OK, I’m just going to do whatever I can to try to make a positive impact, do the best that I can with this team.”
And here it is eight years later. It’s surreal, but I know I’ve put in my time. I’ve worked hard. We have such great coaches here who want us to succeed and do everything they can on the practice field and during game day to give us that opportunity to succeed. I’m excited for my future. I’d love to be here for the rest of my career, but you’ve got to take it one punt at a time, one year at a time and one kick at a time.
MF: Do your sons have “Punters are people too” T-shirts?
SK: Yes, they do. The whole family does. We ordered those quickly after the reporter (ESPN’s Rich Eisen) sent it to us — to me and Ed Reed — because Ed Reed had said it after the Raiders’ game last year when I had scored a touchdown. So he goes, “Punters are people too.” From there it kind of blew up.
MF: What was your family’s reaction to the Superbowl win and to your safety that helped run out the clock?
SK: It was one of those surreal moments, too. Here I was in the last two plays of Superbowl XLVII, and it’s cool to always know I’ll have that history to remember and the kids will always be able to remember it because of the safety. And the odds of ending a game in a safety is very, very rare — being able to use that play. I think the kids were more excited just to see the confetti fall and play out in the confetti.
But they also understand the significance of the Superbowl, so it was definitely a very cool moment. And I’m glad they were able to be a part of that.
MF: Are you prepared to have a daughter?
SK: That’s a good question. We’re experts at raising sons now, now that they’re all older and more independent. But the whole daughter thing, people are constantly giving us little tips about what it’s going to be like. It’s going to be totally different, because with your sons you can tell them no, it seems like, as a father, but with a girl you’re never going to be able to tell her no.
It’s going to be a change, with more girl stuff coming in the house. My wife will have somebody to go shopping with or do girl things with. When we found out it was going to be a girl, (my sons) were already drawing pictures, making signs for her and stuff like that. So they’re very excited. With other neighbors who have had newborns, they are always wanting to check them out and be involved with them. I think they’re going to be a great help, and they’re going to love the fact that it’s a little girl, somebody they can stick up for and be the older brother and have to protect her.